With no tourists to guide, Australian scuba guides are planting new coral

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With no tourists to guide, Australian scuba guides are planting new coral

The tourist downturn caused by the coronavirus has given scuba guides an opportunity to help clean the environment.

One of the biggest draws for the adventurous tourists in Australia is the opportunity to explore the Great Barrier Reef, a group of 2,900 individual reefs and 900 islands stretching for over 2,300 kilometres over an area of approximately 344,400 square kilometres. Unfortunately, too much contact with reckless divers and the damage brought about by the climate crisis has caused harm to the coral. The lockdown has allowed much of the natural world to recuperate, as industry has stopped and the mass movements of the human population have slowed.

Many of the diving vessels that ferried people to the reef are not staying idle in these times. Instead, the scuba instructors are taking the downtime to help plant fresh coral bed. The dive tour operator Passions of Paradise have tasked their catamarans to deliver four enthusiastic crew and a scientist to Hastings Reef for the Coral Nurture Program.

“We have been assisting Dr. David Suggett’s team from the University of Technology Sydney who is conducting reef resilience research at one of our 26 reef sites,” Chief Executive Officer Scott Garden said.

“I have been working with Passions of Paradise Environmental Sustainability Coordinator Russell Hosp at the site most weeks recording data for the project and establishing a coral nursery.”

About 1000 pieces of coral have been planted.

Lorna Howlett, Project coordinator, and PhD student, told Karryon:

“The Coral Nurture Program aims to give operators yet another stewardship activity they can do at their reef sites in addition to Crown-of-Thorns eradication and the Eye on Reef monitoring program,”

“There are two new things about this program. It is the first time on the Great Barrier Reef that tourism operators have worked alongside researchers and the first time that a coral clip has been used to attach corals to the reef.”

“It involves finding fragments of opportunity – coral fragments that have naturally broken off – and attaching them back on to the reef using a coral clip. We can only use fragments of opportunity found at the site, so Passions of Paradise has installed six frames at the site which can be used as a nursery to grow more corals.”

“Once they find a coral fragment they attach it to the nursery to grow and as it grows they can take fragments from it to attach to the reef giving them a continual source of new corals. The 12-month project finishes next month, however, the operators can continue to operate the nurseries and outplant the corals.”

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